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Austria advance to England with trio of wins

"This is a great achievement," explained Dominik Thalhammer after Austria won elite round Group 2 to seal a spot at the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship.

Austria coach Dominik Thalhammer
Austria coach Dominik Thalhammer ©EXPA

Austria have become the fourth team to seal a berth at the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship after pipping Russia to first place in elite round Group 2.

Going into today's decisive match in Dornbirn, hosts Austria held a two-point lead over their opponents and posted a 5-1 comeback win to become the first women's team from the country to reach the final phase of a UEFA competition. Dominik Thalhammer's charges will now join Spain, Scotland, hosts England and four more sides in the 24 October draw for the final tournament, which takes place between 26 November and 8 December.

Russia needed a victory to take top spot themselves and they got off to the best of starts when captain Alena Andreeva found the net from distance after just three minutes. Austria did not panic, however, and put themselves in front just before the interval as Nina Wasserbauer and Julia Kofler rounded off two well-timed counterattacks.

The home team dominated after the break too, despite losing Adina Hamidovic to a 58th-minute red card, with Wasserbauer doubling her tally and Kofler completing her second hat-trick of the elite round. "It was difficult at the start because we had heavy legs following the previous two games, but our team showed morale and strength and came back after conceding an early goal to win it," said Thalhammer.

"I think we were the best team in the tournament in terms of physical preparation, tactical and technical abilities. We were behind against Greece and Russia but still managed to win those games. Now we're looking forward to England and we're really happy and going to enjoy every match there. Although we won't be favourites, we'll be getting all the experience possible of football at that high level.

"This is a great achievement for Austrian women's football," he added. "It was important that we launched the national academy in St Polten two years ago, and now the team can train seven times a week. That's why we have progressed so far."

Also on Sunday, Greece signed off with a 3-1 defeat of Belarus in Bregenz to finish second in the group, edging ahead of Russia on goal difference. Vangelis Koutsakis's team are nonetheless out as they cannot qualify as the runner-up with the best record against the sides first and third in their section.

Having come third, Russia will look back with regret, particularly as they enjoyed a narrow lead after kicking off with a 3-2 win against Belarus. They did trail on two minutes to Natalia Vasilyeva, but a pair of quickfire Andreeva strikes turned the game. Late on, Varvara Bychkova made it 3-1, before fellow substitute Daria Stezhko reduced the arrears. Austria also came from behind to beat Greece in their opening match, with Marina Georgieva's penalty two minutes from time sealing a 2-1 success.

A 6-0 victory over Belarus took Austria to the top two days later, the prolific Kofler notching a treble. In the other fixture, Greece led Russia through Styliani Kotsaki's effort on 27 minutes, but after Andreeva missed a penalty early in the second half, Thenia Zerva's own goal ultimately ensured a 1-1 draw.